Shall We Spend or Save Our National Treasures?

Areas cut out of Utah monuments are rich in oil, coal, uranium

WaPo - Utahan Lands

Alaskan Oil Zombie Roams The Capitol
Forbes - SenMurkowski

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska on Nov. 14. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, is well on his way to charting the course for the dissolution of what was once a Republican legacy. I speak, of course, about our federally protected lands and the treasures they contain. From Andrew Jackson through Dwight D. Eisenhower, and even extending to George W. Bush, the establishment and maintenance of federally protected lands has been a pillar of Republican policy. President Trump, utilizing Executive orders (March 28, 2017 and December 20, 2017), has opted instead to follow Secretary Zinke’s newly determined path by reconfiguring the way in which U.S. natural resources within National Parks and National Monuments are managed. The White House has also directed the elimination and/or alternation of a number of 9B regulations. These 36 CFR Part 9, Subpart B –  Non-Federal Oil and Gas Rights regulations were implemented in 1978 and updated, as drilling techniques evolved, in 2009.

“[The purposes of the regulations are to] insure that activities undertaken pursuant to [nonfederal oil and gas rights] are conducted in a manner consistent with the purposes for which the National Park System and each unit thereof were created, to prevent or minimize damage to the environment and other resource values, and to insure to the extent feasible that all units of the National Park System are left unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
National Park Service – 9B Regulations

Their rollback further opens the door for private exploration of oil, natural gas, and mineral deposits on certain protected federal lands. Combined with the Trump administration’s goal of delegating environmental conservation authority down to individual states, it is fairly likely that mining in National Park and Monument land will increase. Is this necessary? Is this a wise course of action?

National Parks, and other lands under federal oversight, are some of our greatest strategic resources, many created for permanent protection by a great Republican President, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. These parks guard priceless works of nature, many having taken millions of years to form.

National Geographic – Beautiful Photos of All 59 U.S. National Parks

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As Teddy said of one American marvel he used Executive power to protect,

“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”
National Park Service – Theodore Roosevelt and Conservation

The age of some of the protected formations are nearly impossible to imagine. Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, for example, each took millions of years of natural forces and processes to appear and function as they do today. Not to mention the rich history of human activity that helped to shape these lands. The results of these millions of years could easily be lost for a quick buck and exploitation of limited resources. What sort of resources, you ask? In the case of the aforementioned Utahan and Alaskan lands, there appears to be at minimum a wealth of oil, coal, and uranium. In addition, there are 12 National Parks with currently active wells and 30 more with split estates, where the federal government owns the surface land, but private corporations own the mineral rights beneath:

National Park Sites with Active Oil and Gas Wells

Park State Number of Wells Number of Companies Operating Wells
Alibates Flint Quarries NM TX 5 1
Aztec Ruins NM NM 4 2
Big Cypress NPres FL 20 1
Big Thicket NPres TX 37 16
Big South Fork NRRA TN, KY 152 31
Cuyahoga Valley NP OH 90 21
Cumberland Gap NHP TN, KY, VA 2 1
Gauley River NRA WV 28 3
Lake Meredith NRA TX 174 17
New River Gorge NR WV 1 1
Obed WSR WV 5 2
Padre Island NS TX 14 2

National Park Sites Without Active Wells, but Where Drilling Could Take Place in the Future

Park State
Bluestone NSR WV
Cane River Creole NHP LA
Carlsbad Caverns NP NM
Chaco Culture NHP NM
Dinosaur NM CO
Everglades NP FL
Flight 93 Memorial PA
Fort Necessity NB PA
Fort Union Trading Post NHS ND
Friendship Hill NHS PA
Glen Canyon NRA AZ, UT
Grand Teton NP WY
Great Sand Dunes NP & PRES CO
Guadalupe Mountains NP TX
Gulf Islands NS MS, FL
Hopewell Culture NHP OH
Indiana Dunes NL IN
Jean Lafitte NHP & PRES LA
Johnstown Flood Memorial PA
Little River Canyon NPres AL
Mammoth Cave NP KY
Mesa Verde NP CO
Nocodemus NHS NE
Palo Alto Battlefield NHP TX
San Antonio Missions NHP TX
Santa Monica Mountains NRA CA
Steamtown NHS PA
Theodore Roosevelt NP ND
Upper Delaware SRR NY, PA
Washita Battlefield NHS OK

National Parks Conservation Association – National Parks Affected by 9B Rules

These are only a few of the many National Parks and National Monuments that sit atop hidden wealth. It is not a coincidence that these lands specifically protect a significant amount of America’s natural resources.  Having a protected set of commodities like oil and coal is important for future emergencies, but to mine it all just to increase quarterly profits is a quick route to a state with no emergency stockpile. Teddy was both an environmentalist and a pragmatist.

“We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.”
National Park Service – Theodore Roosevelt and Conservation

He was a practical man who understood the wisdom of preserving a cache of resources that the country would be able to dip into in times of great and true crisis unavoidable by any other means. Are our modern obstacles unavoidable? Can they not be surmounted by other means?

Yes, we are in a time of economic crisis, but it is one of our own making, brought to us by unfettered greed and the pursuit of endless corporate profit growth. We have outsourced vast swaths of our production sector and entwined our fuel and energy future with an incredibly unstable part of the world. In order to give value to our fiat currency, and provide various sectors of our economy with endless work, we have spent decades dancing with Salafists, as a means to access and control trade of precious black liquid. The spice must flow. Terrorism has resulted. Rebellions have resulted. Wars have resulted. This is not the rainy day envisioned by the brilliant leaders of the past. Much like the robbery of the Social Security surpluses, the current justification for the carve-up of National Parks is nothing more than the shortsighted pursuit of money by a handful of Robber Barons, and their political servants, whose capital can finance their flight from the country once its wealth is stripped bare. Teddy and the true Republicans of old would be ashamed of our childishness. Surrounded by monopolies, I find myself wondering “Where are our trustbusters?”  Plagued by hyenas and vultures, I find myself asking, “Where are our visionaries?”

While undertaking the specific research to write this piece, I came to a realization: my title frames the issue incorrectly. The real question is: shall we spend or invest in our national treasures? The implication of this question is that there is an unaddressed benefit – outside of ecological, environmental, and treaty concerns – to keeping these lands protected. Our National Parks are an economy unto themselves. They act as permanent anchors of the natural wonders of our country, attracting visitors from all corners of the Earth who wish to marvel, in person, at their grandeur and experience, firsthand, their rugged beauty and the challenges they pose to the adventurous. This is an endlessly renewing economy, as generation after generation of human beings travel to these parks to spend their hard-earned cash. Businesses and communities, which might otherwise survive on the thin edge, are able to thrive on the tourist economy that our lands create and maintain over time. This stream of income varies over time, but it is a consistent one. In 2016 alone, visitors to our national parks spent approximately $18.4 billion dollars. That’s not a one-time profit from oil exploration or coal mining, but an ongoing influx of billions of dollars every year. This income stream, which acts as a semi-permanent lifeblood for regions all over the United States, is coupled to inflation, meaning that as long as the number of visitors remains relatively stable the revenue generated will also remain stable no matter the value of our currency or the state of other parts of our broader economy.

As our country moves forward into the future, the question appears more and more pertinent: shall we spend or invest in our national treasures? The timeless creations of nature we destroy through exploration of resources like oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, etc cannot be recovered by clever landscaping and land reclamation. This is immutable. Were we able to mine these resources without destroying our natural wonders, citizens would likely find themselves far more open to the idea, but the decision to extract and use our strategic reserves is not one to be made lightly. One cannot remove load-bearing walls from their home, sell off the metal and lumber therein, hang a nice curtain in their place, and expect the house to stand. Should we not save these reserves for a crisis that we cannot solve another way?

There is a secondary issue, of delegation of duty, to be considered as well. Being a can of slightly different worms, perhaps this is better saved for a separate piece, but I would like to introduce some questions regardless. Is this, as Republicans suggest, an issue over which states should have authority? What would be the consequences of land like Bears Ears and the Arctic Wildlife Refuge changing hands from Washington D.C. to Salt Lake City and Juneau? Who will be more responsive to the concerns of local citizens and who will be more responsive to the concerns of business? Will Utah and Alaska do a better job? Here are a pair of contrasting opinions:
1. The Hill – Sizing them up: Utah rep, not Trump or Obama, meets Navajo needs on Bears Ears
2. LA Times – Op-Ed Under cover of tax bill, Congress gives away the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – to drillers

Regardless of the trappings of our decisions, the timeless wisdom of President Roosevelt speaks to us still today:

“It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.”
National Park Service – Theodore Roosevelt Quotes

– SoO

News – January 1, 2018

A Belated New Years Post
2018-3d-text

The Opposing Philosophies of Teddy and Trump
National Park Service – Theodore Roosevelt and Conservation
NPS - Teddy Roosevelt

Pot Prohibition Ends in California
Los Angeles Times – A ‘monumental moment’ for fully legal marijuana in California
LA Times - Marijuana Legal.jpg

Oil and Minerals Are Not the Only Economic Potential of Our Federal Lands
National Park Service – Visitor Spending Effects – Economic Contributions of National Park Visitor Spending
NPS - Visitor Spending

Saber-Rattling As Theater – North Korea May Be Ready To Talk
Reuters – North Korea’s Kim ‘open to dialogue’ with South Korea, will only use nukes if threatened
Reuters - Kim Jong Un.png

RPO and Cloverfield and Annihilation, Oh My!
BuzzFeed – Movies And TV Shows To Be Really Excited About In 2018
BuzzFeed - AC.png

First They Came For The Socialists, and I Did Not Speak Out — Because I Was Not A Socialist
The Intercept – Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts At The Direction of The U.S. and Israeli Government
The Intercept - FB

Is This Issue Not More Appropriately Addressed Through The CDC?
USA Today – President Trump fires council advising on HIV/AIDS
USA Today - HIV AIDS

After A Year of Trump, A Throwback: These Are Not The Democrats You Are Looking For
Washington Post – Obama revealed: A moderate Republican

Government Oversight of Private Salaries: A Beta Test
Al Jazeera – Iceland becomes first country to legalise equal pay
Al Jazeera - Equal Pay

Article’s Thesis: It’s Hard, So We Shouldn’t Try
Washington Post – Saudi Arabia is trying to contain the spread of Salafism. It won’t work.
WaPo - Mohammed Bin Salman

Personal Drama Leads to Blood In the Streets
FOX News – Gunman in deadly Colorado deputy shooting identified as Iraq War vet with grudge against sheriff
FOX News - Shooting

The Politics of Mob Justice
FOX News – Hillary Clinton backer paid $500G to fund women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct before Election Day, report says
FOX News - Susie Tompkins Buell.jpg

Your Fly is Open
CNN – State Dept. posts Huma Abedin emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop
CNN - Huma Abedin.png

Even A Broken Clock is Right Twice A Day


SoO Avatar Banner small

News – December 29, 2017

Tennessee To Expand Second Amendment but Limit First Amendment in Government Facilities
USA Today – Guns yes, hand-held signs no in Tennessee lawmakers’ new offices
TN Guns not Signs.png

A Tale of Two Cities
WGN9 – Homeless man freezes to death at Cincinnati Bus stop
New York Times – Homeless Find a Champion in Canada’s Medicine Hat
NYT - Homeless Home

Apply Protests, Lather With the Heavy Hand, Shower With Glorious Freedom, Rinse and Repeat
BBC – Iranian protests: World is watching response, US warns
BBC - Iran.png

Are Markets Actually Accurate Indicators of Overall Quality of Life for Most People
Reuters – Stock performance in 2017 points to wealth for many nations
Reuters – The Year in U.S. markets in five graphs
Reuters - Markets.png

The Vanity Fair Video That Raised So Many Clintonite Hackles

SpaceX Dazzles and Puzzles Across the Southwest
The Verge – A photographer shot an awesome time-lapse of SpaceX’s recent rocket launch
The Guardian – Social media videos capture SpaceX streaking across California skies


SoO Avatar Banner small

News – December 28, 2017

Meet the Monied
Forbes – Forbes 400: Introducing The Wealthiest In America
Forbes – Forbes 400: The List
Forbes Top 400.png

Apple Responds to Lawsuits With Cheaper Batteries and New Battery Display
Reuters – Apple apologizes after outcry over slow iPhones
Reuters - Apple.png

Sanders Exposes Even More Political Maneuvering

Does Flynn Possess Secrets Or Is This Just More Political Theater?
Associated Press – Flynn may be moving to cooperate with Mueller’s Russia probe
AP - Flynn


SoO Avatar Banner small

News – December 26, 2017

A Rotten Apple: Aging, but Not Like a Fine Wine
Reuters – Apple faces lawsuits after saying it slows down aging iPhones
Reuters - iPhone.png

Pay No Attention to the Civil Service Behind the Curtain
The Intercept – How a Gay Friendly and “Very Pro-Choice” Trump Created the Most Anti-Choice, Anti-LGBT Administration in Generations
The Intercept - Scott Lloyd LGBT Civil Service.jpg

As Was Pointed Out to Me, This Article Misses Only the Nuance of Kylo Ren
The Intercept – “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” Takes a Side in the Class War
The Intercept - Star Wars

The Boxing Match Continues, Tit For Tat
MSNBC – Trump spends holiday weekend intensifying FBI feud
MSNBC (Video) – Trump spends Christmas attacking the FBI

NASA or SpaceX; Who Will Land First?
NASA – The Moon Shines Brightly Among NASA’s 2017 Highlights
NASA - Awesome.jpg

Gamers Beware, You May Soon Have a Classifiable Disorder!
Business Insider – ‘Gaming disorder’ may get classified as a mental health condition – here’s what that means
Business Insider - Gaming.jpg

Did He Really Ever Intend to Finish Bush’s Wall?
Bloomberg – What Ever Happened to Donald Trump’s Wall? It’s in Pieces, in the Desert
Bloomberg

Body Broker’s Stock Included Fetuses?
Reuters – Exclusive: Federal agents found fetuses in body broker’s warehouse (Warning: Graphic images)
Reuters - Body Broker.png

Russia and Ukraine; Shades of Our War With the Mexican Cartels
National Post – ‘It doesn’t look like the war will end. No one wants it to’: This is the longest European conflict since the Second World War
National Post - Ukraine.jpg

As The Empire Appears Possibly Poised to Retract, the World Becomes More Interesting
New York Times – Royal Navy Escorts Russian Warship Near U.K.
NYT - Warships

Totalitarian States Act Rapidly in Ways Democracies Cannot
Reuters – China’s Communist Party to discuss amending constitution, graft fight
Reuters - Xi.png

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand
The Hill – Cities sue after Pentagon failed to report crimes to FBI gun check system
The Hill


SoO Avatar Banner small